Let’s say, for the sake of thought experimentation, that the current Quebec minority government decides to put the sovereignty idea on the back burner and get serious — and I mean, no-spit, nuts-and-bolts-level, boring-to-everyone-but-public-administrators serious — about governance. Could they make it work?
It’s no idle question. When you look at Matt Gurney’s critique of the Marois government in its early days, you’ll realize that this isn’t just a listing of policy steps that Mr. Gurney has issues with. It’s also the shopping list of a government with a “progressive” background, leading a population and society that’s more accepting of “progressive” ideas in the mainstream.
Think about it. Low university tuition (or even, some news stories suggest, free tuition). “Green”-informed and -influenced decision-making on economic exploitation, such as not pursuing shale gas opportunities. Searching for more opportunities to “tax the rich.” These are decisions that the Left, in other provinces, would certainly have approved of in the name of “preserving the community and its values” — that is, if the Left actually had a mandate to do so, unencumbered by a need to survive by accommodating the Right.
The thing about Quebec is that allegations of corruption have crippled the one political party perceived as being the voice of economic conservatism; it will take at least a year, more likely three or four as well as some generational change, before the PLQ can regain the trust of the electorate. And even though the PQ have a minority government, there are hundreds of decisions it can make on economic policy that don’t require legislative action.
So: a rare opportunity, not just for progressives in Quebec but for the Left in Canada, to prove a point and answer a question: in the absence of a “conservative” movement, can a genuinely progressive government in Canada succeed today?
The standard for success: re-election of the PQ as a continuing minority or a majority government. The standard for failure: loss of confidence followed by loss of power in an election. The same standard that, on a national level, Stephen Harper’s Tories were held to since 2006. Who here thinks the PQ can do it?